Artist and musician, X'ene Sky gives us a little insight into her creative world. We talk about music, community, and her new work, Flowers.
XS: I am a classically trained pianist, singer and composer. I started playing piano at four after my grandfather bought me lessons and a keyboard. I have gone through various musical periods in my life and have performed everything from opera to the works of Nina Simone. But, I love performing my own works because it feels like the most pure and honest expression of myself.
107: You are quite involved in the community aside from being a musician, what other projects or creative pursuits are you involved?
XS: I am blessed to teach little black and brown children piano and voice. I am the director of the East Austin Community Children's Choir and am currently working on my project “Classically Black” a multimedia work aimed at sharing the art and experiences of black classical pianists.
107: You recently released the haunting music video for your music, Flowers, what was the inspiration behind the video and visuals? what were you trying to communicate?
XS: I was deeply inspired by the life and memory of Trayvon Martin and so many of the black lives we have lost to police brutality. I was also deeply inspired by Billie Holiday and Strange Fruit. The soil, black life, death, rebirth and spring all played a pivotal role in the creation of the video.
107: When you are coming up with concepts for a music video, how do you go about figuring it out?
XS: It varies from project to project. Flowers was an idea and a treatment I had in my mind long before I shared it with anyone else. It was a feeling and an experience that grew inside me, and with each performance of the song. But typically, I write down my thoughts, then meet with artists I trust and work with (usually my close friends) to help conceptualize my ideas.
107: Your track, Flowers, is acoustically laid out, without any frills. It is simply you, your voice, and a piano. Was that done on purpose? if so, what was the purpose?
XS: Yes this was very much so done on purpose. I am a big advocate of simplicity within music, particularly when dealing with painful and dark subjects. I felt like the voice and lyrics needed to be the most prominent part of the song while the piano provided a haunting, simple accompaniment. I find simple acoustic music to be the most impactful way for me to convey a feeling or idea. With a subject like black death, I felt that it was paramount to be clear and without frill or embellishment anywhere in the piece.
107: Additionally, Flowers explores relevant issues in terms of surviving in a hostile world for a certain group of people (or person). What should we, as listeners, take away from this song?
XS: I’m truthfully not sure what people should take away. Besides pain that is. That it hurts to be black. But it’s also beautiful. And it is also inextricably tied to death. That no matter how hard you try to live and breathe and bloom, death is also looming. The soil is always close. This is my take and I am open to the ways in which other people internalize this piece.
107: We just entered spring, is there any new work that we can expect from you in the coming months? Is so, what are they? Additionally, where can we see you perform in the near future?
XS: I will be giving two recitals this summer around the music and resistance of black classical pianists. But follow me on Instagram @xenesky and Twitter @xenesky to keep up with me!
Photography by Herban Cowboy, Zayna Usman